525/600:

A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Whoa…is it dusty in here or what? July 30, 2010

Um, hi.

I know, I know. I said I would write. I said I would write EVERY day. And I intended to do that. And then, well. You see, I got BUSY. And I bet you can hardly imagine that, as a mother of now nearly 7 month old twins and a 2 1/2 year old, I might be busy. But I was.

Sorry for neglecting you, my precious blog. Sorry for abandoning you, my handful of faithful readers! I am back. And that’s the thing about journeys right? You may get off course, but it takes just one step on the old path to get back on it again. So. Here I am.

And never to fear. I may have been too busy to write (and boy do I have the list of excuses, but I’ll spare you), but not too busy to be keeping my children busy!

To fill you in on the past almost 2 months, I’ll just do a sneak peek here. Then, as I have time, I will update these sneak peeks with posts and tutorials. But I will simply move forward as I do that, so as not to create an even FURTHER backlog as I try to catch up.

So, since we last spoke. Here is what we have been  up to.

We….

Wrote our own songs & lyrics

Went on quite a few road trips to Michigan and Minnesota

Got to ride on Grandpa's tractor

Got to see our G.G. when she came to visit

Made a fort out of blankets in the living room

Painted picture frames for all our grandpas

...and for Daddy

Painted a t-shirt for our cousin, Ethan, because it was his first birthday

Made the wrapping paper for Ethan's present

Celebrated Father's Day

Learned to use a train whistle

Went to a BBQ at Uncle Chris' and made new friends

Went out for ice cream

Flew remote control toys with Daddy (this is a helicopter)

Painted the letter D

Made a Chinese "Dragon Kite"

Made thumbprint art

Killed time at the Dr.'s office by practicing shape recognition

Made an entire orchestra's worth of paper plate and cardboard instruments, like this Paper Plate Violin

and this Paper Towel Tube Flute

and these Paper Plate Cymbals

and finally, a cardboard box "Color Piano" (I think my kid is going to be a musician one day)

Had to go in the basement and hang out because of tornado sirens

Made thunder noises with a big sheet of paper and talked about weather (so it's not so scary next time there is a big storm)

Did 4th of July themed activities like hand print fireworks with Mommy

and lit up "snakes" with Daddy (insert Mommy "eyeroll" here)

Got our first set of golf clubs at Grandma's house in Minnesota

Went to the splash park (and the beach, and played in our sprinkler, and played in our kiddie pool)

Started solids

Found our feet

Went to Aunt Ciana's graduation party in Michigan

Made an awesome race car out of a big, cardboard box

Played "house" and "restaurant" and "this is where the puppy lives" with a big, cardboard box

Painted whatever we wanted with brushes

Made scribble drawings

Played with Easter Eggs (again)

Pretended to be a puppy (a lot).

Decided that THIS is how you play with a bouncy seat (and there's no stopping us)

Started trying to CRAWL (Mommy says, "AHHHH!")

Played with textures like crinkly newspaper

Made an elevator on our living room wall

Painted with noodles. How silly!

Decided we should do things, "All by ourselves"...like put on our sunglasses.

We went to the park, and on playdates. We pretended to be puppies and frogs. We developed an imaginary tiger as a friend.We colored and painted and cooked and made things…like I said…we were BUSY.

And there you have it. Whew!

(please check back for individual posts on these projects as I get time to update them. I will link the posts to the pictures.)

 

Day 34: Abacus May 23, 2010

Today I spent the day with some girlfriends at a teeny little store we like to call Ikea. OK, so it’s not so teeny. And it’s pretty much impossible to go there and not get sucked in for a good 4 hours. And besides carrying the world’s greatest selection of particle board and wood veneer furniture, Ikea also has an impressive display of educational, reasonably priced kids toys, like the wooden abacus I bought for Zach.

Zach's new "toy"

According to the New World Encyclopedia (whose website looks suspiciously like Wikipedia, so take this definition for what it’s worth), abaci have been “in use centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system and is still widely used by merchants and clerks in China, Japan, Africa and elsewhere.” In other words, a really long time.

I basically bought it because I knew that Zach would have fun sliding and rolling the beads under his hands, so it’s a sensory toy. I also knew he’d like to count them. The beads are colorful, so I can use it to teach him colors. They are also grouped in 10’s, so we can learn to count by 10 (up to 100). It’s all sorts of usefulness. It also looks like part of the playscape at our local playground and Zach loves to play with that.

So, when I got home from the Ikea-fest, I unwrapped the abacus and put it in front of Zach. He took to it immediately. He slid the beads back and forth. He took the palm of his hand and spun them around (this made him laugh because it kind of tickles). He counted them one by one. And he even told ME the colors of some of the beads. Yellow and Green specifically. On his own. Yay Zach!

Moving the beads over one by one

No. We have STILL not painted that wall. It'll happen. Someday.

Of course, you know that we can’t do anything here without enlisting the help of the front loader and/or dump truck. Zach said, “Yellow tractor. Here tractor, yellow.” I assume the last yellow as for the beads. And then he made the tractor play with the abacus.

Tractor + Abacus = Fun

What did Zach learn today? The abacus was good for all kinds of things: sensory play, color learning, counting practice, imaginative play (with the tractor) and motor skills.

What did Mommy learn? Occasionally I hit the nail on the head in the toy department. And this is great for long-term use as he gets older and learns more math.

 

Day 24: Letter B May 12, 2010

Filed under: Craft,family,Games,letters,numbers,patterns — Erin Brambilla @ 5:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

B for Bee. And B for BONUS–Uncle Chris Visit!!

This morning Uncle Chris had a meeting for work not far from our house and afterward he came to hang out a little bit. After being corralled into “Here-play-with-the-kids-while-I-attempt-to-clean-please duty”, we tried to teach Zach to play Hide and Seek. I think Zach got the seeking part down. The hiding he wasn’t so good at. Mostly because he was way too impatient to wait to be found. If Mommy hadn’t been there, physically holding him in the hiding spot, he would have popped out on his own to start chasing the seeker. But, we did attempt to play for a while.

First, Uncle Chris would hide, then Zach and I would count to ten and say, “Ready or not, here we come!!”. This is the part Zach liked, he’d count to at least 3, then start RUNNING while saying, “Ready or not!”. As soon as he found Uncle Chris, he’d start giggling and then would run away. Zach loves to be chased. He always has. These days though, chase ends with, “Superman!”

Found ya! Superman!!

After Uncle Chris had to leave, I decided to do today’s activity, hoping to distract Zach from being upset that he was gone. But well, the letter B doesn’t really compare. At least I tried!

What I have learned, after our Letter A lesson, is that even if Zach doesn’t seem into the lesson/craft, he’s actually still soaking it in. As was demonstrated a few days ago when, completely unprompted, Zach pointed to his Letter A picture and said, “Letter A, Ah!” to his Daddy. We were shocked and amazed! I had left the picture taped to our fridge and he has been passing by it for over a week now. I hadn’t really given it much thought. But just randomly, he pointed it out and named it. Yay! I DID teach him something. So, I will most definitely be moving forward with this letter of the week thing. This week’s letter being letter B. For Bee. Bumblebee.

Supplies:

Yellow, black and white construction paper, glue, scissors and a black market

I cut half of each piece of yellow and black paper into strips. I also cut the other half of the black paper to make some wings and some antennae. I then called Zach over to help me. I thought that this letter lesson could also start off in teaching him about patterns (as well as colors). I took and glued the first 3 strips onto some plain white paper in a yellow, black, yellow pattern. I explained the pattern to Zach and asked him which piece of paper came next. He didn’t get it. And I didn’t really expect him too. But I told him we would do the black piece next and glued it down. Then I asked him which he thought came after that. He still didn’t get it. And that’s OK, he’s never done this before. So I said the yellow piece. And so on and so forth. I did let him help me glue and stick the pieces on. He did so half-heartedly.

Gluing the strips down

After gluing a piece or two, he got a very important phone call on his cell phone.

Oh, sorry mom, I gotta take this

He said he was talking to "Weah". Leah is a little girl at our church. She is the pastor's daughter. Zach either has his first crush, or Leah plays with the cool toys in the nursery. Though in 2-year-old world, that's probably the same thing.

So, I pressed on. I finished gluing the strips down. Then I took the black marker and made a big letter B, cut it out and glued on the wings and antennae I had made earlier. I told him what I was doing the entire time, and once in a while he would glance in my direction.

It looks like a bee, right? I mean, it's better than my "Animal A"

Then I glued the B to another white piece of paper and wrote, “B is for Bee” on it. I debated if I should write “B is for Bumblebee” but I didn’t.

B is for Bee

After that I taped the B Bee next to the A Animal where I hope he will see it over the next few days and recognize what it is. I’ll be sure to point it out!

Fridge art: how you know you are the mom of a young child

Besides continuing the Fridge Phonics song we learned with the Letter A, but sung with the Letter B this time, I also sang a verse of a song I remember singing with my parents as a kid. You can do this song with every consonant in the alphabet, but today we just did B.

B-A Bay
B-E Bee
B-I Biddy Bi
B-O Bo, Biddy Bi Bo
B-U Bu, Biddy Bi Bo Bu

He hasn’t been an enthusiastic singer today, but that is actually quite unusual for him. I’m confident he’ll sing this with me throughout the week.

What did Zach learn today? How to play Hide and Seek (which teaches counting, patience, looking for things, problem solving, etc.). He also learned some phonics of the letter B.

What did Mommy learn today? Gah! That despite what I have told myself my WHOLE life, I guess I am not as cool as Uncle Chris!

To answer your question: No, Zach does not like to wear pants. Yes, I let him run around in a diaper and a t-shirt. No, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, unless we leave the house that is.

 

Day 19: Mailing a Letter May 7, 2010

Filed under: family,mail,numbers — Erin Brambilla @ 4:44 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, today the “Super Top Secret Mother’s Day Projects” left our house and are now in the hands of the US Postal Service. And back on Monday, when I said that these would arrive to the grandmothers “possibly on time”, what I meant to say was “almost certainly late”. But the thought counts. Right?

To go along with the theme of mail, I decided to teach Zach about mailing letters. I read this idea on some other blog, that I didn’t save, and now I can’t link it. But the idea is not my own. And really, this can be done a million different ways–letters to Santa, letters to family, letters to soldiers, etc. But I decided to follow the advice I read on that other blog and have Zach mail a letter to himself. That way he sees the letter going out AND coming to him. Once he gets the concept, we can have him send letters to other people.

So, I had him start by coloring on a note card. This lesson comes with a warning for other moms: do NOT, for one single second, turn your back on your toddler if you are letting them color with permanent marker, not even to simply answer the ringing phone. You will regret it (but WHY did you use permanent marker in the first place, Erin? I don’t know. A lapse in judgement).

Writing his letter

If anyone has tips on how to clean this, let me know. I think we ruined our dining room table today.

Oh yes, he colored on that dining room table so quickly I wouldn’t have been able to stop him if I’d seen it while it was happening. Funny how it’s like pulling teeth to get him to make that many marks on paper, but the dining room table is apparently much more fun to color.

On the inside of the note, once he was done coloring, I wrote a little message. I figure we can track how long it takes a letter to get to us (though I imagine it will only be a day or two, since we sent it to ourselves). In case you can’t read it, it says: “Dear Zachary, We mailed this letter on Friday. The mailman delivered it to us on ______________.”

Perhaps I should have said, "Letter Carrier", I think our "mail man" is actually a "mail lady". Oops.

Then, we took it out to the mailbox.

Carrying his letter

Into the box. Hey, look how "urban" we are, graffiti on the mailbox!

They pick up mail from this box every morning at 10:00am and it was after 10:00am when we did this. So, I imagine it’ll get picked up tomorrow and delivered to us Monday or Tuesday. I’ll post a follow-up when we get to check our mail and receive his letter!

What did Zach learn today? Well, we talked about how a mailman delivers the letters. And that we put our letter in a mailbox and then a few days later the post office delivers it wherever we want! And how letters get delivered to our house too. And that we were sending presents out to Grandma today.

What did Mommy learn? That it’s called permanent marker for a reason. I could have done a numbers lesson here, along with trying to teach him our address, but he had gotten bored by the time I put the card in the envelope to address it. We’ll do that another day. I also had to do the stamp myself.

 

Day 7 (8641-10080m): Superman Sunday April 25, 2010

Filed under: colors,daddy,language development,numbers — Erin Brambilla @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Sunday has started becoming grocery shopping day for me. Mostly because Pete is home to watch the 3 munchkins and I can go by myself. I’m not opposed or incapable of bringing the 3 of them along. I once went to Target with all 3 kids and tried on a bazillion outfits in the fitting room. Yep. With 2 babies and a 2 year old with me. And nobody cried. It was almost a miracle. Perhaps if I could have  found clothes that fit it would have been an actual miracle, but that’s a story that’s neither here nor there. I digress! At any rate, I went shopping by myself which brings a welcome break for me, plus I can do things about 100 times faster, and Pete gets some bonding time with the kids.

I don’t really know what goes on during these bonding sessions. I do know that he managed to feed and diaper them all appropriately AND straighten the living room. Wow. He’s almost good enough to be me (but don’t tell HIM that). All I know is that when I came home, the 2 babies were cooing away on the playmat and Zach declared himself to be “Superman!!!” and “Daddy a cool dude!” Clearly, sometime in the 2 hours I was gone, a vocabulary lesson took place. After running over to hug me and inspect the wares of the grocery bags, Zach went back to playing the Official Superman Home Game. You know, the one where you run down the hall as fast as you can, into your Daddy’s waiting arms, and he lifts you skyward as you sing-shout, “Superman!!!” It’s just as funny as it is cute!

Running down the hall

SUPERMAN!

Aside from a new game, today’s learning experience is another ingenious, super easy to do activity. Have you ever seen something and thought, “That is SO stinkin’ brilliant, why didn’t *I* think of that???” This is one of those situations. I found it HERE. If you haven’t been to the “No Time For Flashcards” site, go there. Now. The author is probably going to be getting a lot of pingbacks/linkbacks from me because it is FULL of good ideas! Anyhow, for this activity (or as I like to call it, a Cooking Dinner Distraction) all I did was take the magnetic numbers collection I had hidden away and a cookie sheet, put them together and voila! Number learning fun. I nearly threw these numbers out months ago because they don’t stick to our fridge so well, they just kept sliding down to the floor. But, for some reason, I saved them and I’m glad I did. Zach had oodles of fun counting the numbers, grouping the numbers and…well…flinging a few across the kitchen floor!

Magnets grouped by color

I’ll have to find a set of letters to go with the numbers for additional learning opportunities. Oh, and do you think my child has learned the ins and outs of mommy blogging already? As he was working he looked up at me and said, “Camera, mommy?” I think I’m creating a monster!

What did Zach learn? A few new phrases and words. Number recognition. A color lesson. And that Daddy is one “cool dude”. “Awesome!”

What did Mommy learn? Well, that Daddy is actually pretty cool and can handle himself very well with 3 kids. This, of course, I already knew, but a reminder is always refreshing. I also learned that my kid is a total ham and I love it!